A year after losing traffic lanes on Venice Boulevard, things have only gotten worse

By Selena Inouye

Calculations by Restore Venice Blvd. cast doubt that tightening traffic flow has reduced collision rates

Inouye is a retired social worker and chief grassroots organizer for the road diet opposition group Restore Venice Blvd.

Venice Boulevard isn’t a neighborhood street. It’s a former state highway whose purpose is to allow people to travel from their neighborhood to all the other places they want to go in Greater Los Angeles.

Sunday, May 20, marks one year since Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation installed a road diet on Venice Boulevard between Inglewood Boulevard and Beethoven Street under the guise of making the street safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

They called it Great Streets and Vision Zero. They said it would enhance neighborhood character, improve access and mobility, increase economic activity, promote greater community engagement and result in a safer community.

Today, Venice Boulevard is a visually confusing mess of bollards and white and green paint. Drivers can’t figure out where to drive or park and can’t see the bicyclists behind the parked cars in the reconfigured parking lane. Cyclists often choose the sidewalk over the protected bike lane. And the sidewalks still need repair.

This road diet — these lane thefts — aren’t making Venice Boulevard safer.

Why? Traffic is like water: it travels along the path of least resistance. Removing vehicle lanes restricts flow and causes gridlock during peak travel hours on the weekdays and weekends. Emergency vehicles get stuck in the gridlock. Restore Venice Blvd.’s Neighborhood Traffic Watch program has seen what appears to be an increase in fender-bender and chain reaction accidents because of it.

So now locals, commuters and the Los Angeles Fire Department redirect their trips to keep off Venice Boulevard. Cut-through traffic flows onto adjacent residential streets, where kids play and neighbors walk their dogs. Local small businesses struggle because their customers avoid Venice Boulevard, and six have closed their doors for good.

Our community is very concerned.

When we point out the project’s lack of transparency, ask questions and attempt to hold those in charge accountable, we are characterized as drivers unconcerned about the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. Never mind that all of us are pedestrians at one point or another, or that most cyclists own cars too.

We’re very concerned about the 15 cyclists involved in accidents in the new protected bike lane, according to our Neighborhood Traffic Watch. There are those who think the old bike lane was much safer. We think we know why. The L.A. Department of City Planning Complete Streets Design Guide says protected bike lanes should be applied: “… along streets with long blocks and few or no driveways or midblock access points for vehicles.”

We’ve counted. There are 43 driveways and 10 un-signalized intersections on Venice Boulevard between Inglewood and Beethoven, creating 53 conflict points between cars and bicycles.

Did those in charge prepare us for their lane thefts? In Mar Vista they collected 450 surveys, but failed to ask, “Would you support removing vehicle lanes from Venice Boulevard?” They did some pop-up outreach at the Mar Vista Farmers Market, CicLAvia and a few coffee shops, but in Venice and other surrounding neighborhoods they did no outreach at all.

We submitted a California Public Records Act request on Aug. 8, 2017: 283 days later, no response from LADOT. What little we got from Councilman Bonin’s office revealed that certain members of the Mar Vista Community Council and Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce knew about the lane thefts but chose to keep them quiet.

The city’s top-down planning approach to this pilot project shows they didn’t care about community engagement. And they might have gotten away with it if it weren’t for the widespread public outcry.

As of the six month mark, LADOT data shows the road diet was not working. Using data presented at a March 2018 Great Streets Open House, the city-run website veniceblvdmarvista.org and a road segment rate calculation formula that considers collisions and traffic flow, we have calculated that:

• Collisions per 1 million vehicle miles traveled went up from 3.00 pre-project (May 20, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2016) to 3.22 post-project (May 20, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017).

• Injury collisions per 1 million vehicle miles traveled went up from 1.95 pre-project to 2.33 post-project.

The pilot project on Venice Boulevard, what LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds calls “the gold standard” for Vision Zero, isn’t working. But that isn’t stopping Mayor Garcetti from asking for $91 million for Vision Zero in the 2018-19 city budget.

We’ve asked several times for our councilman and LADOT to hold a town hall meeting so we could come together as a community to get the answers to the questions that we have been asking since day one. But they refuse.

Councilman Bonin and Mayor Garcetti, you said this was a one-year pilot. Time’s up! Stop imposing on the goodwill of the residents of Mar Vista, our neighbors in Venice, Del Rey, Culver City and Marina del Rey, and all the pedestrians, cyclists, commuters, emergency responders, businesses, beachgoers and tourists using Venice Boulevard.

Return Venice Boulevard to its previous configuration and put an end to the gridlock, cut-through traffic, increased collisions and injury collisions, negative impacts to our local small businesses, and all the other collateral effects.

It’s time to restore Venice Boulevard. And if this matters to you, now is the time to make your concerns known to Councilman Bonin, Mayor Garcetti, LADOT and the Mar Vista Community Council. Join us at restoreveniceblvd.com to learn how.